During the initial weeks of quarantine in 2020, JoJo became an early leader amongst celebrities who used their platforms to keep fans entertained, and informed. Unfortunately for her, she had just kicked off an era – her fourth studio album, good to know, was slated to drop in May, and the pandemic foiled any hopes of a traditional album roll out. Still, she pressed on. Not only did she drop the album, but she also filmed 5 music videos, recorded an acoustic version of the album, performed a virtual concert, and even released a deluxe edition with bonus tracks. Not only that, but JoJo also released her first-ever Christmas album in 2020, entitled December Baby.
A literal December Baby herself, JoJo recorded her first Christmas song in 2018 when she covered Mariah Carey’s “Miss You Most (At Christmas Time).” Her gorgeous homage earned her praise from the Queen of Christmas herself. The following year, she covered yet another classic: Nat King Cole’s “The Christmas Song.” Seemingly, this foray into Christmas music inspired JoJo to record a Christmas album in 2020.
Consisting of 5 original songs, 4 covers, and 4 “caroling” interludes, December Baby clocks in at just 28 minutes. Indeed, it is short, but well worth the listen. Let JoJo’s modern Christmas masterpiece be the soundtrack to all your holiday jam sessions.
December Baby, the originals
The bulk of the album consists of new cuts, all of which were co-written by JoJo alongside friends-and-collaborators Brian Wiggans and Austin Brown (yes, of the Jackson family). The album’s title track is a standout and my personal favorite. On “December Baby,” JoJo gives a fresh spin on the Christmas love song. While its theme is not unlike that of Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You” that made such songs all the rage, musically, “December Baby” is fresh and modern sounding. Yes, it’s got some sleigh bells and other festive sounds sprinkled about the track, but mostly, it’s an R&B groove that has all the Christmas “warm and cozies” without sounding reductive.
Another standout among the originals is “Wishlist,” a duet with PJ Morton, which was helmed by the same trio (JoJo, Brown and Wiggins), alongside PJ Morton, Billy Steinberg, and Josh Alexander. “Wishlist” is one of those gut wrenching Christmas ballads about love and loss that surely hits home for many. It is a beautiful song, and most definitely a tear jerker. The soulful piano ballad certainly could become a modern classic if the duo plays their cards right!
It ain’t all broken hearts and tears, though. There’s also some grown-and-sexy Christmas moments on December Baby. A pair of ‘em, in fact: “Wrap Me Up,” and “Coming Home.” On these tracks, JoJo straddles the line of “naughty or nice,” serving up two jams that are sure to help set the mood at Christmastime. Meanwhile, on “North Pole,” JoJo delivers what sounds like it could be the toy factory’s theme song. It’s haunting, yet a bop, sort of serving the same feels as “Carol of the Bells.” Except, instead of ballerinas pirouetting, this track might inspire some light twerking instead.
December Baby, the covers and carols
For the covers, JoJo keeps it super classic with her picks, and makes every moment a soulful one. Her take on “The Christmas Song” is a modern, R&B inspired take on the classic that still manages to be faithful and respectful of the original. Jo’s signature vocals elevate this track and all the covers she takes on: “Noelle” (her middle name), “Silent Night,” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” are all gorgeous, as well.
Between tracks, JoJo gives us snippets of some other Christmas carols as she pretends to be out caroling door to door. “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” “What Child Is This,” “Deck the Halls,” and “O Come All Ye Faithful” are all featured in this manner. They’re quick but endearing little additions to the album.
December Baby, what’s next?
The great thing about Christmas albums is that they can be revisited year after year. JoJo’s first endeavor into the genre proves that she certainly should not stop now. Her one of a kind voice, creative originals, and refreshing takes on the classics are undeniably a sleighing success. In the years to come, I would love to hear more festive moments from the December Baby. Until then…